An intervertebral disc is a strong ligament which makes the connection between one vertebral bone to the next and which functions as the shock-absorbing cushion between each vertebra of the spine. Each disc is surrounded by a strong outer ring of fibers, called the annulus fibrosus, and a soft, jelly-like center, called the nucleus pulposus. The annulus is the strongest area of the disc and connects each vertebra together. The strong annular fibers contain the nucleus and distribute pressure evenly across the disc, absorbing the impact of the body’s daily activities and keeping the two vertebrae separated.
The annulus can tear or rupture anywhere around the disc. If it tears and no disc material is ruptured, this is called an annular tear. The outer 1/3 of the disc’s annular ring is highly innervated with pain fibers, that is why such a tear may be extremely painful. This tear will heal with scar tissue over time but is more prone to future tears and injury. Studies also indicate that annular tears may lead to premature degeneration of the disc, endplates, and facet joints.
Historically, therapies did not exist to regenerate the degenerative process in a vertebral disc, often leaving surgical intervention as the only option if other non-operative treatment options have failed. Regenerative therapies for the spine are the future for spinal treatments. If your annular tear is causing your pain, an injection of high-dose stem cells (HD-BMC) may be able to address your tear and take care of the pain.
The stem cells are obtain by aspirating tissue from the patient’s hip bone or from their fat cells. These cells are centrifuged down to identify and separate specific primitive cells that will help heal tissues. Stem cells are then injected into the disc, stimulating healing of the disc by using these primitive blood cells to stimulate regeneration of the collagen within the disc. The area of injury is first identified using ultrasound or fluoroscopy. The area is then sterilized, and the skin above the area is numbed with a novocaine-type solution. Using ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance, the needle is guided to the area of injury, and the stem cell solution is injected. All the regenerative injections performed at our practice are performed under image guidance with ultrasound or fluoroscopy to confirm accurate placement of the stem cells.